A Letter from "Bould Sogger."

Dublin Core


A Letter from "Bould Sogger."


Life of a soldier in the New York 21st Regiment


An account of the 21st New York leaving Upton's Hill on their way to Manassas. "Bould Sogger" was a soldier in the 21st writing back to the Buffalo Express on his experiences. Bould Sogger is slang for "Bold Soldier" and is written in a familiar mark Twain style of 1st narrative.


"Bould Sogger." A soldier in the 21st New York


Buffalo Express


March 20, 1862


Public Domain

Text Item Type Metadata


A letter from "Bould Soger."

Near Centerville, Monday Eve., March 10, 1862.

I had proposed to write my next letter to the Express from the city of Richmond; but as the daily progress of our regiment toward the place named, may be of some interest to those whom we represent In the field, I propose to give from time to time a rude outline of the action, the feelings, and the sayings of the 21st. At five o'clock this morning we marched from our old camp on Upton's Hill, and here, within three and a half miles of Centreville, and at three o'clock In the afternoon, we are pitching our snug little shelter tents, preparatory to bivouacking for the night. This is a brief summary of our first day's actual service In the field. But I Imagine that this epitome will not satisfy those who have in our regiment some brothers, husbands, and and -lovers. I did blush Just a little as I wrote the last word, for could I be a "bould soger" unless somewhere in the wide world lived a blooming maid called Grammacrie.

To particularize then; at almost three o'clock this morning, the company cooks, were aroused from their slumbers, and proceeded to get in readiness two day's rations. The noise made by them, combined with the sharp shrill squeak of the machinery of our musical old well, soon roused those of us whose lucky fortune it was to be off guard, off cook detail, and who for the day were neither "hewers of wood, nor drawers of water." If this narrative may partake somewhat of a personal character, it must be taken as the experience of the majority ; for we are associated so Intimately, our habits, discipline and duties are so similar, that our thoughts, opinions and conversation, run very much in the same channel.

The camp was soon alive with the stir of preparation. Everybody was intensely excited, but what is unusual on such occasions, there was but little confusion. An advance we had for some days anticipated, and every thing was in readiness. There are certain signs that precede the movement of an army, from which one can easily infer that an important movement Is at hand. On this occasion, the order for the officers to reduce their baggage, the supplying us with shelter tents, the constant running of trains on the Loudon and Hampshire railroad that winds around the foot of Upton's Hill, the preparatory tramps in heavy marching order, the practice In pitching our shelter tents, the multitude of rumors that for several days had kept us In a fever of excitement, and the detailing of men to assist in packing up at Brigade Head Quarters, Warned as to be ready. We were ready; and when at 5 o'clock the 21st set its face toward Manassas, and its back to our detested and yet dear old camp on Upton's Hill, every man was in the ranks with a spring and an earnestness, that told how eagerly the regiment desired that "Manassas" should be inscribed upon its colors.

I tied together the flaps of our tent, and when I had finished, I parted them slightly and peeped in to take a last look at the interior. There stood our little sheet-iron stove, none the brighter, to be sure, for "British Lustre," but yet dear to me, for it had kept me warm during the cold days, and dry during the wet ones, and I am quite sure that I fully appreciated the warmth of its efforts on my behalf. There, with an end fastened to each tent pole, passed the little clothes line whereon I had suspended sundry article of soger clothes for the double purpose of getting them out of the way, and of having them ready at hand. "Good-bye old clothes line; I shall always remember you; I couldn't have a greater affection for you, if i were tied to you for life.

It takes all kind of men to make a world; so it does all kind of rope. You've hung there quietly for the last few months, enjoying, no doubt, the elevating influence of our society, and it may happen that your own brother may have an elevating influence in deciding the destiny of "His Excellency," Jeff Davis, the chief cook and bottle washer of the Southern soap bubble. I know not whether it was my hand against the tent pole, but the old clothes line danced as if for joy at the brilliant future I had laid out for a member of its family.

There stood my corduroy bedstead, and on it lay the straw tick, on which I had so often rested my weary limbs. Good bye, old corduroy; I don't lie, neither does it stick in my throat when I say that I should have been hard on you, if you hadn't so generously treated me to several straws. I trust your future will be as, brilliant as your past career. I am sorry, and yet glad to leave you. Like an old lawyer friend of mine in Buffalo, you're a knotty subject. I will only say, further, that it is lucky for a poor soger, on thirteen dollars per month, if, like me, he can live part of the time, as I have, on tick.

I took a hast survey of the interior of the cloth house that had sheltered me from the wind and rain for so many months, and closing the flaps, took my place in the ranks. I said that we turned our backs upon our detested and yet dear old camp, as we set our faces toward Manassas. Detested because while there we had been kept from the long wished for advance; dear, because of the many jovial time we have had within its lines. As the regiment moved off, expressions of satisfaction passed along the ranks. "Good bye, old Upton's Hill," "Checked through to Manassas," "Ain't you might glad to get out of the wilderness," and the like.

Past Fort Buffalo and out the Anandale road we tramped, until we came near to the place where once we came rushing to the rescue of Blenker's pickets. We had marched three miles. The Colonel drew us up in field by the road, where we stacked arms and rested until the other regiment of the brigade came up. They soon made their appearance; and we resumed our march. , It was Just in the gray of the morning, and the sky was beginning to redden and glow as I have seen it In our city In the night from the reflection of a Are, Or when, an ambitious youth, I carried my morning papers for the well earned dollar per week and the profits of a New Year's address. It is a splendid time to march, thus early in the morning: the air is fresh and bracing; the scene lovely and enchanting. One gathers strength for the day's work, and at night the last thought la of the beautiful morning and the hope for another on the morrow.

As we passed Blenker's pickets, one huge Teutonic soger exclaimed, as he watched our regiment. "All young fellersI by dunder, dat ish von bully regiment," This was emphatic, if not very elegant. I appreciated the compliment and my knapsack set like a feather on my back as I thought of it. May we in deed prove to be a " bully " regiment .

A short distance beyond Blanker's pickets we came upon the " Little River Pike." I had never before been so far into the interior of Virginia, and had no Idea that so good a . road leading to Manassas existed. I am now of the decided opinion that at no time during the past winter has the condition of the roads prevented the advance of the " Army of the Potomac."

On we tramped the 21st leading the van of McDowell's division. Two axemen had been detailed from each company of our regiment, to act as pioneers for the division. These were in the advance an hundred or two paces, and cleared the road of all obstacles. In several places trees bad been felled across the road; but only once did the column halt as the pioneers cleared tho way. There were no high hills or deep valleys to pass over or through, but the road ran through an easy rolling country. Judging from what we have to-day seen, the further one' penetrates nto Virginia tho more open becomes the country. The houses (and there are but few) on the road between Blenker's pickets and where we are now encamped, are nearly all deserted, and have been completely stripped of their contents. We marched through Fairfax shortly after 10 o'clock. I never saw so forlorn and mean a- looking place, I suppose of course that something must be allowed on account of the war, but it never could have been a place of much beauty. The only thing about It that interested me was the old brick Court House wherein Washington attended court ; and I was only Interested in It rom this fact.

Gen. Porter's division, starting at 1 o'clock the morning, had reached Fairfax two hours before we arrived. We rested a short distance beyond the village, and the Ellsworths took the advance. They never could are passed us had we not marched six miles without resting-. After resting half an hour, we again took the road. An army on the march is a magnificent sight. The men, sobere down to their work, take the step in voluntarily, and the steady tramp tramp tramp seems to denote the ardent desire of its heart, on-on-on. At the summit of a hill you look back, and as far as the eye can reach, the road is swarming with the dark mass of blue coated soldiers. The glittering bayonets look like a stream sparkling in the rays of the setting sun.
The long column sways to the right and left as it tramps-tramps-on, and one gets an idea of the resistless power of a body of men, who will neither stand nor retreat.

We halted about three miles beyond Fairfax, near the place where the enemy encamped on the night of the 17th of July last. We have marched about eighteen miles. Of course this is not very much of a day's march, but if any of my friends of the "Home Guard" should be inclined to think we have not done our duty, let them take their knapsacks, put in two shirts, one pair drawers, one woolen blanket, one rubber blanket, two pair socks, two towels, strap an overcoat on the top and the half of a shelter tent; then as much as they desire to eat in two days in their hand-haversacks; then fill a three pint canteen with water; then place forty round of cartridge in their boxes; shoulder their muskets, and commencing at the foot of Main street, walk out to Cold Springs and return three times; then let them go under cover at the foot of Main street, make a bunk from their kit, and I think they would wish as we do, that we might whip somebody and go home to feather beds.
Perhaps tomorrow we will have a chance to test our courage; but it is only perhaps, for the rumor is current that the rebels have fled. If so, what does it mean, that we have been fooled, or that they have been beaten?

March 11, 1862

We breakfasted this morning at daylight and packed up for a march; but here we pass another night. The rebels have fled and there is no fighting to be one in this part of Virginia. The Ellsworths, who put up last night in the rebel huts at Centreville were today ordered back to Fairfax. Our boys cracked their jokes at their expense as they marched past our encampment. "You thought the rebels were there yesterday, I suppose? O yes! Of course!" "The Ellsworths with ten thousand men, &c." "Go to the read and take care of the baggage." "Issued for fun, like a smooth bore gun;" and much more of the like. I don't blame them for trying to get the start of everybody else; it is just what our Regiment would have done, and it's the right spirit. The Ellsworths will do their share of the fighting in this way, and may they avenge the death of one of the noblest men their country has produced.

You should see our bivouac. The sunny little shelter tents; the blazing camp fires; the men sitting round them, cracking their jokes, singing their songs, and spinning their yarns. There's my country friend, Sam Harrow, slapping his lank sides with his two acre palms, and roaring with laughter as he telss how widow somebody's big black ram butted Deacon' somebody else over a four rail fence, and then jumped over and butted him back through it. Sam locates the story in Hamburg. It's funny how these same stories are located in an hundred places. I hear same story in Michigan a year since, and it was located somewhere near Grand Haven; and I presume, should I ever visit the land of my ancestors, I should hear it located a few miles out of Cork. Of course we have to put up with things that, were we at home, there would be a row about instanter; but those of us who live through this war will look back upon these scenes, and grow young again when we think of the many jovial days we have had in the woods of old Virginia.

March 12, 1862

I forgot to say, that yesterday afternoon Gen. McClellan, his staff, and body guard, passed our encampment, on the way to Manassas. We gathered along side of the road, and as he went flying through, we swung "high our ready caps in air," and cheered him to the echo. He rode through uncovered, and seemed intensely pleased at the welcome we gave him. Oau brigade this afternoon marched to Centreville, in order that we might view the rebel fortifications. I am not an engineer, and do not profess to be a competent Judge, but if twenty thousand fighting men could not have taken those fortifications in one hour, then I am no judge capabilities of men determined to triumph or fail. A general might as well go down on the lake shore and build a fort of sand and expect to stand a siege and triumph, as to build such fortifications as there are at Centreville, and expect to withstand an army like this. - I know nothing of the works at Manassas, but rumor says they are not so strong as at Centreville. If this be so, I don't wonder the rebels fled. I did not see at Centreville a single section that could not without a ladder: indeed the ditches were so contemptible, that I began to think Gen. Pillow had engineered them, and given it up as unnatural to put the ditch on the outside.

March 13th, '62

How my heart beat as I read to-day Abraham Lincoln's three war orders. There's not a word but has a ring to it. He is commander-in-chief, and the ablest man or them all. One of the orders appoints Gen. James Wadsworth Commander of the forces left for the defense of Washington. We have been under his command for several months, and have become very much attached to him. To-day he took leave of as. The officers the several regiments gathered at his quarters to say good-bye. Col. Rogers addressed him on behalf of the offices, and expressed the high appreciation in which he was held, and the sorrow the officers felt in parting with him. The Gen. responded feelingly, shook hands with them all, and mounting his horse, rode along the line that had been hastily formed, amid the cheers of the men. " I am sorry! the old man's gone," is the universal expression.

March 14th, '62

I write for the last tune from our "Camp near Centrentreville." We move In the morning, but we do not advance. Where we are to go I know not, but before this letter reaches its destination I hope I may be able to prove that i am a Bould Soger.



"Bould Sogger." A soldier in the 21st New York, “A Letter from "Bould Sogger.",” Mapping the Civil War in Arlington, accessed June 15, 2024, https://mtcwia.com/items/show/42.

Output Formats